Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other (Ephesians 4:32)
I know that I have life
only insofar as I have love.
I have no love
except it come from Thee.
Help me, please, to carry
this candle against the wind.
– Wendell Berry
Three years ago this February, my family suddenly and unexpectedly lost my little baby nephew, Camden. It was terrible and horrible and horrifying in all the ways you might expect. One of the strongest memories and emotions I feel looking back at that first week, and those first months, is how very much “surrounded” my sister and brother-in-law were, and by extension how very much “surrounded” I felt. Hundreds of people showed up to write cards, call on the phone, visit, cook meals, make donations, come to the funeral, and sit silently by the tiny grave on a gray afternoon. This multitude of love flowed out of church acquaintances, childhood friends, extended family, co-workers, Canadians , and so many more. It was one of the most palpable experiences of community, love, and common humanity I have ever experienced.
Last week I read an article on the internet from one of our major political parties here in the US. It said something to the effect of, “No matter what you believe on such and such issue, the most important thing is to not give in or give ground to the other major political party.” I’ve read a lot of horrible things in recent weeks and months, but this one by far chilled me through and through. What I heard loud and clear in that article was that political beliefs and party affiliations are more important than anything, even our common humanity. And I truly believe this is how hatred takes hold.
Political party affiliations are not, ARE NOT, are NOT, stand-ins for real, personal relationships. On the day of sweet Camden’s funeral, not one national politician from any major political party attended. Or wrote a card, or cooked a meal, or held my sobbing relatives. (Though some local politicians – who were (much more importantly) dear family friends – did come) The people who showed up and loved us at our most vulnerable time were people who voted 100 different ways in November for 1000 different reasons.
If I’m honest, at times it’s really hard to understand how someone I know and love can see the world so very differently than I do. I get that frustration and that confusion. Especially when politicians far away are screaming to us that THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING!!!!!!
But I am resolved to refuse to become so entrenched in my political beliefs that I can’t be flexible enough to change, or to recognize the common values that I do hold with people who are registered to vote differently than me. I refuse to let that frustration give way to hatred. I refuse to stop seeing the humanity in my friends, family & loved ones who approach the world differently than me. I love them and I love their kids. I am grateful to know them and to have shared part of my life with them.
This morning when I stepped outside the house, I paused for a moment to take it all in: the shy winter sun, the persistent wind, the songbirds playing tag at the bird-feeder and our lone renegade hen begging scraps from my kids. In that fleeting moment – away from the radio and internet and text messages – I felt acutely the undeniable truth:
We are all too beautiful for this hatred and division.